How to Prepare for the SAT

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is required for the admission process for most colleges and universities across the United States. Students who take the SAT, usually take the test in their junior or senior years of high school. 

Getting a good score on this test can increase your likelihood of getting accepted into your dream school and receiving incredible scholarship opportunities. With the proper preparation, you will minimize your stress and get a better chance at a perfect score. 

A perfect score is 1600 points. However, getting a perfect score is much easier said than done. The 1600 points are distributed among the math, reading, and writing sections: 800 points for the math portion and 800 points for the reading and writing portions. Your overall SAT score is the sum of both sections, which will range from 400 to 1600 points. If you are interested in taking the SAT with writing, it’s important you know that the essay takes no part in the overall score. In fact, your SAT essay score can range from 2 to 8.

Most schools are looking for a test score that ranges between 1200-1600 points. Even before you take your first exam, you should set goals to meet that expectation. To learn more about the SAT’s grading system, check out this article: What Are the Various Standardized Tests for Potential College Students?

What’s the cost?

The test varies in cost depending on which type of testing you choose. There are three options:  If you are considering taking the SAT during the 2020-2021 school year, you will be required to pay $49.50 for the test without the essay and $64.50 for the option with the essay. As for Subject Tests, you will be required to pay $26. Although we wish it was true, money doesn’t grow on trees. Luckily, there is a fee waiver program for low-income families. Click here to find out if you qualify.

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How do I prepare for the SAT?

Preparation is the key to success. To best prepare for the SAT, follow the steps below. 

Create a Study Schedule

From my own personal experience, creating a study schedule even before choosing a test date is an excellent idea – allow me to elaborate. By creating a study schedule ahead of your test date you will be more prepared. There are only seven test dates a year, so choose wisely! 

The easiest way to start creating a study schedule is by writing down your personal daily schedule. Doing so will prompt you to have a more structured way of living and will give you a clear idea of how many hours in your day can be dedicated to your study sessions. Studying in short bursts most days of the week will help you keep the information and strategy fresh in your mind without exhausting you on test prep. Leave yourself time to tackle vocabulary words, practice writing essays, and memorize math formulas. All of this prep will help you take the test more efficiently and with less stress.

Get Some Study Guides 

Now that you’ve figured out your best study schedule, put it to practice! 

If you love free things (just like I do), then you must use Khan Academy’s FREE SAT Prep program – it’s a lifesaver! Some schools offer free SAT practice exams and tutoring, so be sure to ask your counselor to find out if your school offers this amazing opportunity. If they do, sign up! The more practice you get, the better. 

Plan to take one practice test before you start studying, so you can compare your progress to it later and see which areas you need to focus on the most. Then take another one after a month of studying, and another a few weeks before your test date. Taking several practice tests will familiarize you with the format.

Now it’s time to strategize. Find study materials that teach you how to take the test – like how to approach the essay in a limited time, how to make the most of multiple-choice, and how to avoid hiccups like getting stuck on a question.

You can find test booklets at your nearest bookstore, typically containing an online component with free practice tests. 

Choose Your Test Date

Now that you have your studying system figured out, you can start the next exciting step: Choosing a date. You can only choose from seven test dates per year for the SAT. Based on these limited dates, you will need to think wisely about what to choose. I suggest you take a test mid junior year if you want to take the test more than two times. However, if you only plan to take the test two times between your junior and senior year, I suggest your first test in the Spring of your junior year. For the best possible outcome, I suggest that you schedule your test date at least 30 days out from when you schedule it. 

Once you have decided when to take the SAT, start thinking about your next step towards college. Take a few minutes to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) and get a head start on searching for financial aid for college. 

Get Ready for Test Day

A few days before the test day, dial back the studying. If you gave yourself enough time, then you’ll already feel prepared and won’t be tempted to cram. The night before the test day be sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep. Getting a good’s night sleep will help your body feel less overwhelmed and instead feel more energized to tackle the SAT. 

You should consider eating healthy foods and getting some exercise and/or meditation the day before the test. Doing so will give your brain a little bit of relaxation time. For a test of this magnitude, you want to go into it rested and ready, not frazzled and sleep-deprived. 

On the morning of your test day, you will probably be super nervous so be sure to set at least 30 minutes of relaxation time or doing something that helps you relax. Make sure you eat a balanced breakfast. Maybe consider a bowl of cereal, yogurt, an apple – it sounds crazy but carbs are brain food. Bring a snack to the test site, this could be yogurt, a granola bar or fruit. Eating a snack during your test break will give your brain energy to continue operating and focusing. In fact, with a full stomach, you are more likely to focus.

You now know all the logistics about the grading system, so it’s time we emphasize that getting a “high” score takes a lot of practice and commitment. You will need to get a head start in your studying strategy and take every practice guide very seriously.

If you don’t get your desired score on the first try, don’t get sad and sappy. Keep your head up and try again! You can take the test as many times as you want. So think about it this way: every time you take the SAT, you have a chance to get a better score.

Be sure to keep a positive mindset each time you take the test regardless of how many times you take it.